Four days before my university graduation, I’ve decided to write about my high school experience. Rather than present one organized story or essay, I’ve presented my high school experience in anecdotes and life lessons. Some of the lessons relate to the stories that precede or follow them, but some lessons appear at random, much in the way that life lessons appear in life. And with that, I present to you high school.
In grade ten, everyone did a career aptitude test. While everyone around me got reasonable careers like accountant or doctor, my aptitude test declared I was best suited to be a stuntwoman.
Life Lesson from High School #1. Do what you’re passionate about. Doing things that don’t matter to you will eventually exhaust you.
I spent most of my high school career figuring out what I didn’t want to do, rather than what I wanted to do. As a child I wanted to become an astronaut, but I gave up on that dream once I realized I was claustrophobic and was consequently afraid of spaceships. For years after, I was certain that I wanted to become an architect, only to realize that I preferred looking at buildings to drawing them. I considered a number of professions ranging from doctor to hired assassin, but eventually I concluded that my interests didn’t lie in science and I didn’t know how to shoot a gun. Though I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do in life even after I had accepted a university offer, I knew that through the trial and error process, I was getting closer to where I wanted to be.
Song: Lying Is The Most Fun A Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off by Panic! At The Disco
He was almost at the finish line, and he was doing better than anyone thought he could. We were so excited, we started cheering, “You can do it! You’re almost there!” He put his arm out in front of him and sprinted past everyone around him. It was only after he passed us that we realized he wasn’t near the finish line. He had as many kilometres ahead of him as he had behind him. We cheered the boy to the finish line two kilometres too soon. When he passed us the second time, he wasn’t nearly as happy to see us.
Life Lesson from High School #2. Sometimes you’re going to feel like no one is worse at something than you are. You’ll feel like you’re not as smart, not as attractive, not as athletic as everyone around you. Often you will realize you were being too critical of yourself. Sometimes you’ll realize that given the situation, you are the less intelligent, attractive or athletic. With time you’ll come to recognize when you’re being self-critical and when you’re being self-aware.
I always felt self-conscious when I was playing volleyball in gym class because I felt like I was the worst one on the floor. Eventually I realized that I didn’t need to feel self-conscious because I really was the worst one on the floor. Surprisingly, it made volleyball a little more fun because I no longer felt like I needed to prove myself. I’d like to say that I ended up improving and went onto make the senior volleyball team the following year, but the fact of the matter is, my volleyball career culminated when I spiked a distant cousin in the nose at a family reunion. At least at that point I had given due warning that I wasn’t very good at volleyball.
Song: Kids by MGMT
Excerpt from My High School Journal #1: Maybe he’ll see me when I don’t look like a Dalmatian and frizzy poodle hybrid. That would be nice. Good night.
The next entry 10:40 – My cat decided to eat my hand.
We were given a sculpture assignment in grade nine art class where we were supposed to sculpt and paint a reptile. I sculpted a brontosaurus in a straw hat. When my friends complimented the sculpture as a whole and the hat in particular, I told them I had received a low mark on it. My art teacher’s comment was that dinosaurs didn’t wear hats. To this day, I’m surprised that my teacher had such a limited view on reptilian fashion.
Life Lesson from High School #3. a) You will often hear, ‘Just because everyone is doing it doesn’t mean that you have to.’ It’s human nature to want to do what everyone else is doing. Decide what’s really worth doing, but don’t force yourself to think differently just because you’re told that you should or shouldn’t think that way.
b) In that regard, at times in high school – and in life generally – you’re going to want to be someone who you’re not. Trying to be the best version of yourself is one thing. Trying to be someone who you can never be will only hide and destroy the characteristics of the person you’re meant to be.
In grade twelve, I experienced what I now call my Black Swan year. I was waiting for university acceptances without much of a sense of what I wanted to do and I was skating with the synchronized skating team I had won Nationals with the previous year. My team was performing poorly due to a number of issues with the team dynamic, so there was a lot of arguing on and off the ice. I was determined that I would never be a part of the problem, so I decided I was going to do everything perfectly. I would go through the program in practice like it was a performance. I aimed to have the perfect bun, the perfect posture and the perfect expression. I even became obsessed with having perfectly tied skates, to the point that I usually retied my skates twice before I would step on the ice. This perfectionism extended into school, where I felt like I had to have the correct answer to every question from my calculus homework. Though my downfall wasn’t as dramatic as Natalie Portman’s character’s in Black Swan, I eventually had a collapse that had me crying at a competition and failing a calculus quiz. The failed attempt at perfection led to my worst track season of my high school career. Eventually I realized that I really, really wanted to be perfect (the first step was admitting it to myself), and that I never could be perfect. I started to come to terms with this, stopped skating and chose the university that I secretly always wanted to go to. As for the impact of the Black Swan year in my university career, for the most part, I’ve learned to value the effort and enthusiasm that went into the work I did, rather than only valuing the perfection. I still get caught up with the need to be perfect sometimes, but I have friends and family to support me when I start to feel that way. I’ve also learned the signs of my stress level getting out of hand, like when I feel the need to make my kitchen weirdly clean. I have accepted that I’m not always going to hand in 90% essays, I’m not always going to say the right thing in conversations, and though I failed to realize this at seventeen, I will very rarely have a perfect bun. I guess I knew this all along but now that I’ve accepted it, I’m a lot happier. Black Swan had a dramatic ending, but I never wanted that for my own life.
Song: Remembering Sunday by All Time Low
Excerpt from My High School Journal #2: You know those things that look disgusting but you have to try them anyways? Salsa and vanilla ice cream is one of them. I nearly threw up, but I had to give it a try.
We were in grade eleven biology, and we were supposed to focus in on a cell on the slide we had been given. Jaclyn had the cell all lined up, but when I went to adjust the microscope, I accidentally shifted it. “Courtney! You lost the cell!” Jaclyn exclaimed. “Don’t worry,” I said with confidence, “I can find it again.”
Life Lesson from High School #4. Sometimes the people you least expect will become your closest friends.
I had known Becca since grade nine, but we didn’t become friends until we ended up in the same gym class in grade eleven. Before that point, it always seemed like our interests were too different, and I was envious of her enthusiasm in French class when all I wanted to do was hide under a Bescherelle. We got talking as we ran laps one day, and then we found ourselves running laps together the next day, and the next day. One day I recommend Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging to her, and the rest is history.
Song: Chelsea Dagger by The Fratellis
After a few years without one, our school got a tent to bring to outdoor athletic events. The cross country team was proud to bring the tent to one of our major meets. We found it more difficult to set up than we had anticipated and much more difficult to tie down, particularly because it was a windy day, but after a few tries it was standing up more or less convincingly. We promptly walked away from the tent to deal with the more pressing matter of running races. When we came back twenty minute later, a little guy named Mac was chasing the tent – tarp, metal frame, pegs and all – across a park lot. Luckily, he managed to catch the tent before it blew into someone’s car.
Life Lesson from High School #5: You’ll have good days and you’ll have bad days. Remember the good moments for what they were without seeking to replicate them. Learn from the bad moments and let them go, and learn from the good moments too. If you’re forever recalling the negative moments, ever situation is going to be a shit one. And while saying you hated high school allows you to indulge your inner angsty teenager, it only breeds hate unnecessarily.
Excerpt from My High School Journal #3. Well, I’m not done yet, but this notebook is. I appreciate your patience with my dithering. It’s been a slice and in the words of my journaling mentor Georgia Nicholson, I’m away laughing on a fast camel.
Song: What I Got by Sublime
I may be older, better educated, and possibly wiser, but I still leave you with the same words that I ended my journal with at fifteen. It’s been a slice, and I’m away laughing on a fast camel.
Album of the Day: Fast Times at Barrington High by The Academy Is…